My View: A three-way battle for the hearts and minds of the middle class
The 2014 midterm Congressional elections are shaping up to be a three-way battle between two wings of the GOP and a more unified Democratic party for the hearts and minds of the middle class. What they all agree is that the middle class income has stagnated while the upper 1 percent have benefited from the recovery and longer standing trends in the economy. What to do about it, if anything, is the subject of the new three-way battleground.
In this State of the Union address, the President laid out an action plan. He proposed more job training, Pre-K education support, raising the minimum wage, providing more financial security through continuing Obamacare by removing financial fear of bankruptcy due to unpayable medical bills, and new retirement accounts for those not with employer IRAs, among others.
The new approach advocated by more GOP moderates is to reposition the GOP as the party of “alternatives” because just saying “no” is not a White House winning strategy. Their Tea Party flank is still stuck in “repeal everything Obama has passed and oppose everything he proposes.” The increasing income gap had just created holes in the Republican’s theory that a rising tide would lift all boats if only government got out of the way. To some in the GOP, it appeared voters were indeed looking for some hand-up from the government, and they were seeing the lack of Congressional action as a nada tostada approach that was uncaring.
Last week saw the first Republican attempt to propose an “alternative” to Obamacare. Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (OK), Orrin Hatch (UT), and Richard Burr( NC), proposed a replacement for Obamacare. It is a plan ripe for a Democratic counterattack because it places a financial burden on the working middle class and older Americans while getting businesses, invincible individuals, and medical provider interests off the hook from doing anything. This alternative tostada will be a hard one for middle class America to swallow.
Attempting to keep popular parts of the ACA, the Three Amigo Senators came up with a scheme to pay for subsidies to make insurance affordable to consumers and to cover pre-existing conditions. To pay for their proposal, the GOP senators would raise taxes on all Americans with health insurance from employers by making most health insurance benefits taxable income. They would permit greater premium increases for older Americans than permitted by Obamacare and they would kick out a sizeable number of middle class from Obamacare’s premium subsidies. The proposal lets the young healthy and those of any age go insurance naked, free to shift their unpaid medical bills to everyone else, and relieves hospitals and other providers from taking any action to keep health care costs down. It also eliminates requirements that employers with more than 50 employees provide health insurance. It also reduces Medicaid, subsidizing more poor to find more expensive private market insurance. Those with pre-existing conditions who have not yet managed to get coverage are kicked into a subsidized insurance pool paid by the higher income taxes on the already insured.
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